By Cheryl Toomey, University Relations Graduate Assistant

If you’ve had problems with body image, you’re not alone. Kjerstin Gruys experienced the same feelings, which led her to live without mirrors for a year and to write a memoir about the experience, Mirror Mirror off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year. If you’re wondering how this changed her self-perception, or just how she put her makeup on without a mirror, come out to see her lecture.

Gruys, who has appeared on 20/20, The Colbert Report, and Good Morning America, will be presenting this public lecture, “Beauty: Bodies from the Personal to the Political” on March 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the UTC University Center Auditorium. The event will be free and open to the public.

This is the fourth year that UTC has sponsored an event for Eating Disorder Awareness. Gruys is also the keynote speaker for 2014 Women’s History Month.

“I think that self-image is a constant problem for women in our society and I think that by offering programing like this we’re really going to reach a lot of women about this issue and let them know that they really are perfect just the way they are. We want them to think more about their holistic health and not the number on the scale or their reflection in the mirror,” says Cassie Nice, Assistant Director of the Women’s Center.

This program brings a unique perspective to the subject of body image. Gruys worked in the fashion industry at Abercrombie & Fitch Corporate and later at GAP Inc. She is now pursuing the Ph.D. in sociology at UCLA.  Her research explores the relationship between physical appearance and social inequity. She is a feminist, an academic, a fashionista, and a recovered anorexic. As Gruys put it, she was a “a body-image expert with a body-image problem.”

Kjerstin Gruys will be the keynote speaker for the “I Am Enough” campaign created by the UTC Dean of Students Office and made possible by an award from Kappa Delta Sorority’s Confidence Coalition Project. The campaign was designed to inspire college women to build confidence through healthy body imaging and the development of meaningful relationships.

March 3
Campaign Kick-Off from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Heritage Plaza
Feel Good Naked Event with Kjerstin Gruys at 7:30 p.m., UC Auditorium

March 4
Power Yoga at 12 noon in the Multicultural Center
“Food for Thought” from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center
Self-Harm Awareness Photo Exhibit 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Chattanooga Room

March 5
Self-Defense Class from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center

March 6
The I Am Enough Pledge from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the UC Lobby

“A lot of men and women struggle with image issues, feeling like they’re not accepted for the way they look. We always want to correlate self-image with weight, but it comes in many forms, from facial features to fashion, and we critique ourselves harshly on these things. And that’s what I liked about the book and the concept about this woman who spent a year without looking at herself in a mirror for a year. If we all did that, I wonder if we would stop judging ourselves and others aesthetically and be more kind,” says Tricia Henderson, the Assistant Director of the UTC Counseling and Personal Development Center.

In 2011 while shopping for a wedding dress, Gruys felt the crushing influence of beauty expectations – and that’s when she decided to live without mirrors for a year. Mirror Mirror off the Wall is her poignant, humorous memoir of how she lived for twelve months without looking into a reflective surface.

“I think the tone of her book is really relatable, and really connects well with this generation and gets her point across in an enjoyable way,” says Nice.

“Gruys has a unique perspective, coming from the fashion industry to the sociological perspective. Her personal experience is fascinating. She makes it humorous as well and I think that students can really identify with it because it’s something that she’s lived,” says Henderson.

The lecture will cover not only Mirror Mirror off the Wall, but also Gruys’s experience researching the issue, working in the fashion industry, political aspects of beauty ideals, and how we all buy into the image of beauty that the media sells us.

This program was brought to UTC through a joint effort from the Women’s Center, the Women’s Studies Program, the Counseling Center, the Campus Activities Board, Student Health Services, Development, and Panhellenic.

“I think it’s really great that we have so many groups that are stepping up to sponsor such a big event and I think it speaks loudly to how needed programing is like this on the UTC campus,” says Nice.

For anyone struggling with body image issues or eating disorders, help is available at UTC in the Student Health Services http://www.utc.edu/student-health-services/  and the Women’s Center  http://www.utc.edu/womens-center/ .

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